Can I just shock you? I like League One.
Now I know I’m not supposed to think that. I’m supposed to believe in the nirvana that is the Premier League and I should not enjoy anything until my club is making up the numbers in Richard Scudamore’s promised land. The right way to support a club is to be in the top twenty, have loads of games moved for Sky television and put up with all of Match of the Day’s over-analysis, just to watch a 0-0 draw with Huddersfield at 11.50pm on a Saturday night.
The thing is though, that just isn’t very fun is it? We’ve been in that position, clinging onto survival just so we can try to do exactly the same all over again a year later. Sure, there was some good moments during those late season surges but after a while, it’s just the same boring cycle and it was a cycle we all knew wasn’t sustainable.
When you go through such rigmarole, it’s easy to forget that you’re supposed to enjoy supporting a football club. That isn’t to say you should win every week, there are 92 teams in the in the league after all, some of them have to be better than others.
You should be able to believe that your team will compete, though.
In League One, Sunderland are reminding us of what it is to be a supporter. After suffering from years of feckless players who didn’t care about the club we had been left apathetic and punch-drunk. This past week, however, has been a great example of how transformed the club feels now as the players have brilliantly demonstrated their commitment by twice coming from a goal behind to claim all three points.
In the past, Sunderland going behind in the first ten minutes would be enough to make you think “game over” and you would shift your focus to planning your night out instead, or thinking about what you were going to have for your tea. Heads haven’t dropped on the pitch, however, and that has bled into the stands, with defiant roars greeting any opposition goals.
Against Gillingham, Chris Maguire wasted no time in pulling us level before Honeyman, Power and Maja put us out of sight. Granted, we rode our luck against Wimbledon but Lee Cattermole was a one man metaphor as he refused to be beaten. King Catts (yes, that’s his nickname now, deal with it) dragged his teammates through the game before connecting with a delightful volley to win the game.
Now answer me a question - Would you rather watch Lee Barry Cattermole ping in a sumptuous strike to grab a late winner while you stand in an old-fashioned away end, or would you rather shout at a sports shop before gleefully watching your side put eleven men behind the ball, just in the hope you can nick a point off a team who are miles ahead of you in quality?
I know which option I am supposed to choose, having been conditioned to worship at the alter of the Barclays, but I also know which one is more fun. And that’s what’s important as a supporter - having a good time. You create memories by enjoying yourself at the match, no matter what league it’s in. You shouldn’t have to worry about the club’s finances or the practicalities involved in the finer workings of football. Simply, you should be able to go the match to escape, to watch your team fight and make you proud.
That pride is coming back to Sunderland, as we ride high after four wins in our opening five games, and I am loving every second of it. I love seeing our younger players develop and tear teams apart. I love how Max Power takes the piss out of Donald Love on his Instagram story. I love going to grounds like Kenilworth Road where you enter the away end via someone’s back garden. I love having a young, hungry, determined manager who will be given time to build the club back up and doesn’t act like he’s above the place.
I’m not one to sell the virtues of relegation, that part of Sunderland’s story isn’t fun at all. But, at the same time, none of the above would have been possible if the club was still in the stifling world of the Premier League - where you have to be dead serious about everything and, unless you’re winning, you better not even dare break into a smile.
One day we may be back at football’s top table, probably not for a while though, and to be honest that suits me just fine. I’m excited about my club again and I feel connected to it for the first time since Niall Quinn was Chairman.
If I can have that same excitement in the Premier League one day, then that’s great, but if we make that long climb just to be another number then the EFL will do for now.